Light flows at the speed of molasses


Tonight I was watching a Science Channel TV show on the New Horizons spacecraft mission to Pluto, which just completed its Jupiter flyby in February of this year.

Its a spectacular mission, and it’s got a one day window of opportunity when it does its encounter with Pluto, and its moons Charon, plus the two new ones recently discovered.

What struck me was the fact that when the spacecraft makes it’s flyby of Pluto, it will take four and a half hours for the radio signal from earth to reach Pluto, and another four and a half hours for a response to come back again. Can you imagine having a conversation like this?

So, my previous entry talked about the Galactic perspective of size for Earth, our planets, our sun and solar system in comparison to other stars, such as the Red Giant known as Betelgeuse. Its about the size of the orbit of Mars in our solar system. It’s huge. Yet there are even larger supergiant stars, such as Antares.

If light takes a little over 4.5 hours to reach from the surface of the sun to Pluto, think about the relative slowness of lightspeed, even at the speed of 185000 miles per second, which is incredibly fast by our experiences, its molasses slow in terms of the size of the universe. Consider, our closest star, Alpha Centauri, 4.5 light years away. It takes light 4.5 years to reach us. And there are things seen by the Hubble telescope that are billions of light years away.

The conclusion that this brings me to is that there must be something faster than light. For example, our galaxy, the milky way spins around like a whirlpool, but doesn’t fly apart. Gravity keeps it together. Yet for gravity to be able to act over such long distances, it stands to reason that it has to be faster than light.

Yet experimental measurements in 2002 indicate the speed of gravity be between between .8 and 1.2 times the speed of light. Hmmm.

It would seem to me more likely that the speed of gravity is either static or nearly infinite, depending on how you look at it. Perhaps we’ll find out that gravity is actually a quantum effect, which has been shown to act at tremendous speed. Gravity acts at tremendous distances as well as close distances, but for subatomic distances it appears to be so weak as to be suspended.

Some theories say we’ll find a partcle someday called the gravitron.

There’s a lot we don’t know yet about our universe.

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